McGill University retained the top spot in Maclean’s magazine’s annual ranking of Canadian universities. The report, published on Oct. 11, evaluated 15 Canadian universities in the ‘medical-doctoral’ category, a comprehensive classification for research-focused universities with a wide range of graduate programs. This is the 14th consecutive year that McGill has been listed in first place, which it shares with the University of Toronto in the most recent report.
An Oct. 11 article published in Maclean’s describing the results cited several factors to explain McGill’s continued dominance in the ranking: The important contributions of McGill researchers to a range of medical fields, McGill’s highly international student body, and the number of McGill alumni—144, the most in Canada—to be attributed the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
In a statement to the Montreal Gazette, McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier expressed pride in the report.
“We are delighted to see McGill recognized once again as Canada’s leading university according to the Maclean’s yardstick,” Fortier said. “All members of our McGill community can take pride in this accomplishment. I salute our alumni for the solid foundation of excellence they have built in our great university and congratulate all the students, professors and staff for their commitment to the values of McGill.”
This report follows the Times Higher Education’s (THE) World University Ranking in September, which placed McGill 44th in the world. Though this is a drop from last year’s ranking, which placed McGill at 42nd, the lower rank may not necessarily be indicative of a decline in McGill’s performance as a university. According to THE Global Ranking Editor Ellie Bothwell, the drop does not reflect a negative evaluation of McGill; rather, the decline is a result of other universities growing faster.
“McGill’s performance dropped in three areas over the past year, research income, research reputation, and doctorates awarded per academic staff,” Bothwell said. “However, it is worth noting that McGill’s overall score was actually higher this year compared with last year, so increased competition in the table played a big part. Other universities simply improved at a faster rate.”
At the McGill Board of Governors meeting on Oct. 4, McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier attributed the drop in McGill’s ranking to shifts in the global education market. In particular, Fortier believes many Asian universities are receiving significantly more government funding, pushing them upward in the rankings.
“[Analysts] are predicting that we will see the Western universities lose their spots as Asian universities enter the ranks,” Fortier said.
The THE ranking is based on 13 performance indicators that evaluate the university’s global standing in terms of research and education. The most important factor, ‘citation impact,’ a measure of the university’s research contributions, constitutes 30 per cent of the overall ranking and is usually the deciding factor of a university’s rank.
Metrics assessing teaching quality and research reputation are also heavily weighted, composing 15 and 18 per cent of the ranking, respectively. Other performance indicators include numbers of grants and doctorates awarded, international outlook, and innovation. The ranking system is applied to over 1,200 universities annually and uses a cumulative probability function to calculate an overall score.
In an emailed statement to the McGill Tribune, McGill Provost Christopher Manfredi wrote that, while he was pleased by McGill’s performance in the rankings, the THE report is unlikely to have any major impacts on McGill’s decision-making.
“McGill’s overall standing in the THE rankings remains world class, and our scores in virtually all areas increased over last year,” Manfredi wrote. “We do not calibrate policy or practice to address the assessments of external rankings agencies. We remain a research-intensive, student-centred university where faculty members are world leaders in their fields and offer an exceptional education to their students.”